Westley Allan Dodd
Thanks to a brave six-year-old boy and the courageous William "Ray" Graves, Westley Dodd was apprehended after trying to abduct the child from a theater bathroom. The police brought him to the station for questioning.
Dodd was visibly nervous as detectives from both Washington and Oregon interrogated him. His record revealed a litany of crimes against children, the most serious an attempted abduction in Seattle in 1987. More importantly, they realized that their suspect lived a short distance from where Cole and Billy Neer were killed, and worked close to where Lee Iseli's body was found.
When questioned about the incident at the New Liberty Theater, Dodd tried to convince the detectives that he intended "only" to molest the boy in the restroom. He admitted to his history of molestations but left out the murders. Eventually, Dodd confessed that he had killed Billy and Cole Neer, and Lee Iseli, and went into graphic detail.
He claimed that he had to kill the Neers so that they wouldn't identify him. "When Cole pulled his pants down, I knew I wouldn't be able to let them go," he said, as if Cole had precipitated his own murder. Dodd recounted how he coaxed Lee into his car, and brought him home, where he molested and killed him. The detectives were disgusted by Dodd's admissions, but were even more disturbed by the fact that Dodd seemed to enjoy reliving the events. He then told them about the briefcase under the bed, where he hid his diaries, his photo albums, and Lee's underwear.
As investigators searched Dodd's small but orderly apartment, they found ropes and belts (for restraining his victims); X-Acto knives (Dodd planned to use these for his "experimental surgeries"); and ropes around the single bed's headboard and footboard. They found four volumes of Parent/Child books, and a copy of the New Testament, with the words "Satan Lives" scrawled inside. They also found Dodd's homemade torture rack, which had not yet been used.
But the most incriminating discovery was Dodd's briefcase, hidden under the bed.
The first thing investigators noticed when they unlatched the briefcase was Lee's folded "Ghostbusters" underwear. They found his diaries, which painstakingly recounted his assaults and plans for future murders. Dodd had neatly organized the articles pertaining to the Neer and Iseli cases, and had systematically arranged his notes on the crimes, divided into separate envelopes titled "Incident 1," "Incident 2," and "Incident 3." A photo album, with the words "Family Memories" on the cover, functioned as Dodd's pornographic collection, which included images of Christ as a baby from iconographic paintings. It also contained advertising images of children in underwear. There were Polaroids of Dodd naked, Dodd assaulting Lee, and pictures taken of Lee after he had died, including one of the little boy hanging in the closet.
"There's nothing more precious than them little guys"
Dodd was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Billy and Cole Neer, and Lee Iseli, as well as attempted kidnapping at the New Liberty Theater. Initially Dodd pleaded "not guilty," but in January 1990, against his attorney's wishes, he changed his pleas to guilty on all counts. Later that year, he stood before a Clark County judge and read a statement, indicting himself on all charges. He admitted that his crimes, including murder, were premeditated. There would be no trial to determine his guilt, but a jury would have to decide whether to give him the death penalty.
"Look what Mr. Dodd likes to do in his free time," said Prosecutor Roger Bennett to the jury. "Plan child murders. Commit child murders. Relive fantasies about child murders and write about them. With life without parole, two of those things are still available to him."
The jury of six men and six women listened with disbelief, disgust, and grief as they were read sections from Dodd's diary, and saw the photos implicating Dodd's brutalities against Lee Iseli. One of the jurors nearly passed out as he listened to parts of the diary read aloud. They also heard Dodd's detailed plans for his future victims, which included mutilation, dismemberment, and death.
Dodd's defense did not call any witnesses, nor did they present any evidence during the trial. Defense attorney Lee Dane did try to suggest that only an insane person would write the diaries that Dodd kept. During the trial Dodd sat quietly, stone faced. He later told The Oregonian that he was bored by the testimony. "I've heard it so many times now, it's kind of old, really."
Prosecutors asked for the death penalty, and on Saturday, July 15, 1990, the jury agreed that Dodd should die for his crimes. William "Ray" Graves, who apprehended Dodd outside of the New Liberty Theater, said, "The man don't deserve to live — not someone who does that to babies. There's nothing more precious than them little guys."
Death by hanging
Dodd was in the odd position of having to defend his decision to die: "I didn't offer any mitigating evidence during the penalty phase because, in my mind, that's just an excuse. And I don't want to make any excuses," he told the court. "I do not blame the criminal justice system for anything...but the system does not work and I can tell them why," he said. "It doesn't really matter why the crimes happened. I should be punished to the full extent of the law, as should all sex offenders and murderers." Dodd stated that if his death would bring relief to victims' families, then he should die as soon as possible.
After the sentence, Dodd insisted that hanging was the appropriate means of execution, and that he did not want his death delayed by appeals. "I must be executed before I have an opportunity to escape or kill someone within the prison. If I do escape, I promise you I will kill and rape and enjoy every minute of it," he told the court.
He wanted to hang, he said, "because that's the way Lee Iseli died." The judge set Dodd's execution date for January 5, 1993, in Walla Walla, Washington. The ACLU fought to keep Dodd off the gallows, arguing that death, especially hanging, was cruel and unusual punishment. But Washington's justice system prevailed, and Dodd's execution date moved closer. By choosing a particularly cruel form of capital punishment, hanging, Dodd fiercely polarized the capital punishment debate, and many rallied to stop the execution. Although Dodd indicated he wanted to die, it seemed that he wanted to die a martyr, not as a criminal.
Dodd lures the media
Dodd made use of his time by courting the news, claiming he could help by telling his story. After his capture, he wrote a pamphlet on how to keep kids safe. But the Northwest communities where he molested children did not need Dodd as their spokesman against pedophilia.
Both the pornographic diary, numerous letters, and the cautionary pamphlet express Dodd's need to talk, and talk, and talk about his sick fetish. Dodd enticed the media, and the media trustingly took him by the hand as an "expert." He marketed himself as a monster — look at me! Watch out for my kind! There are others out there like me! He appeared on TV shows (including Sally Jesse Raphael and a CNN special,) called radio programs from his cellblock, and gave countless interviews to reporters and to anyone else who wanted to listen to him recount his molestations. During the trial, Judge Robert Harris got so fed up with Dodd's incessant interviews that he threatened Dodd with lockdown conditions, including revoking telephone and mail privileges. He also chastised reporters for printing interviews with Dodd that could sway the jury.
In the end, Dodd used children for his own physical gratification by molesting them, and then used them for ego gratification by becoming an expert on the subject of child molestation.
As his execution date approached, Dodd professed remorse for what he had done. "I have confessed all my sins," he told a reporter in his interview. "I believe what the Bible teaches: I'll go to Heaven. I have doubts, but I'd really like to believe that I would be able to go up to the three little boys and give them a hug and tell them how sorry I was and be able to love them with a real true love and have no desire to hurt them in any way." We can only hope that Dodd's final destination provided some permanent distance between himself and the boys he hurt.
At 12:05 am on January 5th, Westley Dodd was executed by hanging. He was the first inmate to die at the gallows since 1965.